The George Wythe Maroons won a VHSL state football championship in 2002.
The George Wythe Maroons claimed a state title in 2012.
It’s now 2022 and the consistent winners from Wytheville are one victory shy of keeping the symmetry of state gold every 10 years intact.
George Wythe (Class 1) and Graham (Class 2) will both try to bring state titles back to far Southwest Virginia on Saturday when the teams play in championship games at Salem Stadium.
GW has long been one of the area’s best programs.
The Maroons have not had a sub-.500 record since 1996 and have reached the playoffs every season since 2007.
While George Wythe is going for title No. 3, Graham aims for a fifth state title as the G-Men won it all in 1989, 1995 and 2018 (also in 1962 during the pre-playoff era), while being runner-up in 2001 and 2021.
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Graham is also trying to make some local history as no football squad from far Southwest Virginia has ever finished a season 15-0. There have been several 14-win teams from these parts and the G-Men have matched that total entering Saturday.
Located less than 45 minutes from one another and both featuring maroon in their color schemes, Graham and George Wythe share some connections.
Graham posted a 27-7 win over GW on Sept. 30 at Bluefield’s Mitchell Stadium as Ty’Drez Clements rushed for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
George Wythe got its TD on Tandom Smith’s scoring strike to Ben Jollay. Smith rushed for 75 yards and passed for 85 more on that rainy Friday night.
Clements and Smith played starring roles in state semifinal wins on Saturday: George Wythe impressed in a 35-12 win over Grundy and Graham earned a 36-20 win over Appomattox.
Twin brothers Ben Jollay and Luke Jollay of George Wythe moved from Bluefield to Wytheville when they were 11-years-old. Their mom, Charity, is a 1995 Graham graduate.
Graham sophomore running back Jamel Floyd played middle-school ball in Wytheville.
There are some other guys with local connections playing in VHSL title games in the larger classifications.
Head coach Brad Bradley leads Heritage-Lynchburg (12-2) against Phoebus (14-0) in the Class 3 finals on the campus of Liberty University. Bradley is the son of former Grundy coach Larry Bradley and the grandson of legendary Graham, Sullivan East and Virginia High gridiron boss Lawrence “Burrhead” Bradley.
Chilhowie High School and Emory & Henry College graduate Billy Mills is the head coach at Dinwiddie (14-0), which faces Kettle Run (14-0) in a highly-anticipated Class 4 showdown in Lynchburg.
Another title game to keep an eye is in Class 6 as Freedom-Woodbridge (14-0) plays James Madison (11-3) at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk. Freedom has scored a VHSL single-season record 904 points – a sublime average of 64.6 per game – and made national headlines earlier this year with a 112-16 win over Colgan.
The following is a brief look at the finals matchups involving squads from far Southwest Virginia:
George Wythe (10-3) vs. Riverheads (11-1), Salem Stadium, Noon: Riverheads is in the state finals for the eighth straight season and the Gladiators are aiming for a seventh consecutive championship.
Graham (14-0) vs. Central-Woodstock (12-2), Salem Stadium, 4 p.m.: This is Graham’s third appearance in the VHSL finals since 2018. The Central-Woodstock Falcons are here for the first time in program history.